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After reviewing some material about the optimal methodology (ie, approach) for strategic distribution planning, related to an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) project, it became quickly evident that the expert’s recommendation followed the basic principles for consensual decision-making.

The three indisputable components when consensus building include:

  1. Purpose (or, intent)
  2. Options
  3. Criteria

Since not all criteria is of equal value, the author suggested weighting the criteria, referred to as “service outputs.” Even when you make a simple decision about buying new underwear, you consider the purpose (eg; workout, daily, formalwear, etc.), your options (typically stuff on the shelf at the store), and your criteria (ie; style, price, size, etc.). Not surprisingly, you also weigh the criteria, as size is probably the most important criteria, followed closely by price.  All three components add value when consensus building.

In their model they suggest the following:

  • Identify which channels you are seeking to penetrate
  • Isolate the most important segments within each channel
  • Identify their “service outputs” and then to . . .
  1. List clearly
  2. Rank
  3. Prioritize
  4. Rank

By arraying your options against your decision criteria, you can display decisions on a single-page. We call the visual array a decision-matrix. Compare your options to your criteria.

A Blueprint When Consensus Building Around All Types of Decision-Making

Consensus Building – Decision Support Matrix

CAUTION

Do not ask a close-ended question such as “Does this criteria affect this option?” Rather, ask the open-ended question that yields a powerful visual; namely, “To what extent does this criteria impact this option (ie, High, Low, or Medium). It’s easier to build consensual understanding when taking a non-narrative approach as shown below.

The example suggests the important attributes sought when hiring domestic staff for a wealthy household. Note for example that “Reputation” is less important when hiring a new Gardener than when hiring someone for Day Care support of the children. Again, note that “Creativity” is more important when hiring a chef than when hiring Cleaning Support. The group can easily evaluate the importance of the options by the extent they are supported by the criteria. The group can also see the relative importance of an individual criterion by evaluating its impact across all of the options.

Remember, the secret is to ask the open-ended question, “To what extent . . .” Additionally, since the example is a simple, “plain vanilla” illustration, modify it to your own situation, and consider using the Bookend tool to force fit an even distribution of Highs, Lows, and Moderates across the options or within each option. See the link that follows for further explanation on the use of Bookends.

By the way, some of the criteria used in the distribution channels example might include:

  • Adaptability (eg, to economic upheaval, competitive forces, etc.)
  • Effectiveness (eg, return on investment, market share, etc.)
  • Efficiency (eg, expense to revenue, cost of doing business, etc.)
  • Quality (eg, customer satisfaction, on time performance, etc.)

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Facilitation Expert

Terrence Metz, CSM, PSPO, CSPF, is the Managing Director of MG RUSH Facilitation Training and Coaching, the acknowledged leader in structured facilitation training. His FAST Facilitation Best Practices blog features over 300 articles on facilitation skills and tools aimed at helping others lead faster, more productive meetings and workshops that yield higher quality decisions. His clients include Agilists, Scrum teams, program and project managers, senior officers, and the business analyst community among numerous private and public companies and global corporations. As an undergraduate of Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and MBA graduate from NWU’s Kellogg School of Management, his professional experience has focused on process improvement and product development. He continually aspires to make it easier for others to succeed.

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